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netbook-spaceIf you thought cheap gigabyte hard drives meant no one is concerned about space on their computers anymore, think again. There are plenty of netbook owners out there who, because they opted for a solid state drive instead of a conventional one, have as little as 16, 8 or even 4 gigs of hard drive space. Count me among them: my EEE PC came with only 4 gigs of internal space.

This isn’t a problem, though. Unlike with a desktop or a laptop, I have no expectation of being able to carry all my documents, music and videos with me on my netbook. The netbook is, first and foremost, for accessing the net (as its name cleverly implies.)


If you think running a modern computer with only 4 gigs of space is impossible, I’ve got news for you: I do it all the time. I use my netbook.

How do I manage this with such a small hard drive? Easily. Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up to free up Netbook disk space.

Use Web Apps

These days everything’s on the cloud, and if you can find a desktop app to do something you can probably find a web app for it. I’ve been using Gmail for my email since it came out in 2004, but I don’t stop there. Google Calendar is my calendar, Working Point keeps track of my invoices for work and Meebo is my go-to instant messenger.

free netbook disk space

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These are just a few examples, of course. There are thousands of web apps out there that can help free up Netbook disk space, and if you’re looking for one the MakeUseOf Directory is a great place to start.

Want your web apps to feel more like desktop apps? Prism, from Mozilla, can do this for you easily – check out Travis’s article about running web apps on your desktop with Prism Run Web Apps on your Desktop with Prism Run Web Apps on your Desktop with Prism Read More . If you’re more of a Chrome person than a Mozilla person, don’t worry: Chrome’s got you covered by default. Just click the page icon, then click “Create Application Shortcuts“ and you’ve got it.

Avoid Large Programs

Software can fill your hard drive up quicker than you might imagine, which is why it’s generally a good idea to avoid programs larger than is strictly necessary. For example, I never carry a word processer or a spreadsheet program with me on my netbook.

Such programs, be they the Microsoft or Open Office versions, offer more functionality than are needed on a netbook – which I  only use for quickly writing on the go – and take up a ton of space in order to offer this functionality. I use a simple text editor in order to write on my netbook, and open .doc and .xls files with Google Docs when absolutely necessary.

free up Netbook disk space

If your netbook is running out of space, take a look at the programs you have on it. Are all of them really necessary? Could you do without them? If the answer is yes, uninstall them.

Don’t Be a Pack Rat

The era of the cheap gigabyte drive means many of us never put any thought into whether or not to keep data around. As such, deleting files is becominng increasingly rare.

You can’t operate this way on your netbook. Installation files, music and documents you aren’t currently working on are worth saving, but your netbook is not the place to save them. Keep them on your desktop computer, if you have one, or else invest in an external hard drive. Your netbook should only have files on it that you’re currently working on.

Use Dropbox Magic

The easiest way to do this? Some Dropbox magic, of course.

Here’s what I suggest you do: use your Dropbox as your “currently working on” folder. Thanks to Dropbox’s key feature – namely syncing files across all your computers – all of your current projects will always be on both our machines.

Once you’re done with something, you can hop onto your desktop and remove the completed project to a folder outside your desktop, automatically deleting it from your netbook. You’ll never lose any data, and never have anything more on your netbook than you absolutely need.

free Netbook disk space

I use this same strategy for all my work, including the stuff I write here at MakeUseOf. I love having the mobility of a netbook combined with the power of a desktop, and being able to seamlessly jump from one to the other as I’m working on something.

For more killer uses of this ultimate syncing software, check out my article on unique ways to use Dropbox. 4 Unique and Cool Ways To Use Dropbox 4 Unique and Cool Ways To Use Dropbox Read More

Switch To A Netbook-Centric OS

Most desktop operating systems – including Windows, Ubuntu and OSX – contain features you’ll never realistically need on your netbook. You can try manually stripping them out of your OS, but why bother when there’s an exceptional netbook operating system available for free? It’s called Jolicloud, and it is built from the ground up for netbooks.

For more information, read my article about Jolicloud being the perfect netbook operating system. Jolicloud: The Operating System Download for Netbook You've Been Looking For Jolicloud: The Operating System Download for Netbook You've Been Looking For Read More

Still Not Enough? Get An SD Card

Almost every netbook on the market has an SD card slot, and SD cards are getting cheaper all the time. If after all these tricks you still need space you can always pick up an SD card. If you can’t free up enough Netbook disk space, this is great way to supplement your storage space without the expense of buying a bigger hard drive and installing it.

Conclusion

I love my netbook, but it’s really easy to fill up its hard drive. By combining all the strategies I’ve discussed here, however, I’ve got to a point where I hardly even notice I’ve only got 4 gigs of space.

Do you have any space-saving strategies you use to free up space on your netbook? Are you upset I didn’t mention every file-syncing program on the planet? Or do you just think netbooks are pretty? I can’t say promising will bring you good luck and happiness, but it can’t hurt.

  1. Pete
    October 4, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I'm waiting for the new iPad/mini in October. Typically, the price on refurb ipad 4/mini 2 will drop as the new models ship. Losa bang for the buck. Patience is a virtue.

  2. jhpot
    May 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I always use Linux on my netbook, so this isn't an issue for me. But those of you who are Windows-bound and concerned about space should consider Panda Cloud AV, which keeps its updates files on the web.

    http://www.cloudantivirus.com/...

  3. Cedric
    April 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    What do you use for Anti-Malware and how do you handle it's update files and the space they eat up. I found that most used up my 16Gig SSD very quickly!

    • jhpot
      May 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      I always use Linux on my netbook, so this isn't an issue for me. But those of you who are Windows-bound and concerned about space should consider Panda Cloud AV, which keeps its updates files on the web.

      http://www.cloudantivirus.com/en/

  4. poch
    April 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks to you I learned about SD card storage.

  5. jhpot
    April 25, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Some of us choose solid state drives instead of large conventional drives. My netbook is for carrying around on a bike, so I don't want a conventional drive.

    The tips above are more for people with solid state drives.

  6. Fede
    April 25, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Dropbox is the best replacement for the hardrive.

    https://www.dropbox.com/referr...

  7. Ashutosh Mishra
    April 25, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Well netbooks these days are coming with hard drives with upto 250 GB of storage (maybe more), so it's not like they're low on space or anything. Of course, 250 GB may not be enough to keep all your data, but it's not like a netbook is gonna be your only computer.

    P.S. I'm planning to buy an Asus EEE PC 1005P early next month, and it has a 250 GB drive. :)

  8. Ashutosh Mishra
    April 25, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Well netbooks these days are coming with hard drives with upto 250 GB of storage (maybe more), so it's not like they're low on space or anything. Of course, 250 GB may not be enough to keep all your data, but it's not like a netbook is gonna be your only computer.

    P.S. I'm planning to buy an Asus EEE PC 1005P early next month, and it has a 250 GB drive. :)

    • Anonymous
      April 25, 2010 at 3:59 am

      Agreed. I have a laptop with a 250GB hard drive. It's my only computer. I have an 500GB external hard drive for backup, and, in theory, overflow. I've come nowhere near close to filling my laptop drive, much less my external drive. Maybe half full, that's it, and that includes lots of disk images, virtual hard drives, several large computer games, visual studio, and a large music library. If I stored movies on it, I'd run out of space quicker. I know a guy who's on his second 1TB external drive because of all the stuff he torrents.

      • jhpot
        April 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm

        Some of us choose solid state drives instead of large conventional drives. My netbook is for carrying around on a bike, so I don't want a conventional drive.

        The tips above are more for people with solid state drives.

      • alex
        April 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm

        the small hard drives are just for the 7" and 8" netbooks, my 10" netbook has a standard 2.5" drive so i upgraded it to 250 but it can go up to 500 gb. after 500gb the 2.5" drives get slightly thicker and although a 2.5" 1tb drive is available it won't fit in my netbook.

  9. Martin
    April 25, 2010 at 3:04 am

    ænon1mus, I think you missed the point of the article *sigh*

  10. ænon1mus
    April 24, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    That's the thing about netbooks, they're swell and portable but their hard drives are just so minuscule! I can't imagine running with just 8GB. My iTunes library alone is over 120GB.

    • Martin
      April 25, 2010 at 1:04 am

      ænon1mus, I think you missed the point of the article *sigh*

  11. Versatile
    April 24, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I have the Asus EEE 701 series and it has a 4GB SSD hard drive. I have added a 8GB sd card, and a 250GB external passport that is velcored to the top of the laptop for easy storage.

    Right now I use all portable apps that keeps my machine nice and clean.

  12. Versatile
    April 24, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I have the Asus EEE 701 series and it has a 4GB SSD hard drive. I have added a 8GB sd card, and a 250GB external passport that is velcored to the top of the laptop for easy storage.

    Right now I use all portable apps that keeps my machine nice and clean.

  13. Alex
    April 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I had no idea netbooks ran with such small hard drives.

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